Tuesday, July 31, 2018

More OSR Observations on The Basic Dungeons & Dragons Rule Book By Tom Moldvay

For me Basic Dungeons & Dragons was a sort of weird transition point between original Dungeons & Dragons to Holmes then to Basic. The whole theory behind the product for me didn't feel so much as a new beginning but a transition of adventure play.

We didn't bother with taking our games over to Advanced Dungeons & Dragons until much later on. The Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual & Fiend Folio were used ad hoc in play regardless of various articles in 'The Dragon' who urged caution for using the monsters. The Drivethrurpg entry on the B/X Basic set rule book entry bares out my own DM's instincts on the subject;
"Holmes' Basic Set was widely successful - sufficiently so that TSR was wary of sending its players on to the more challenging original D&D game or the more complex AD&D game (1977-79) game. Thus, as early as fall 1979, work began on an Expert Set that would allow the hundreds of thousands of players who had learned the game from Basic D&D to continue on, past the three levels available in that game."

For kids wanting Dungeons & Dragons faster then a black & white Eighties Sword & Sorcery comic book style the Basic rule book fit the bill but we used whatever resources were available & game balance be damned.

There was a certain amount of unhinged lets see what we can get going with this stuff attitude when it came to the games. Gods, Demi Gods & Heroes were used frequently when the version of Deities & Demi gods weren't available because of circumstances. World mythology was a major part of our campaigns back then & to certain extent it still is. Despite the near constant whine of the majority of OSR kickstarters & trendy what not the Eighties provided a cheap mill of used paperbacks & mythology which was/is still the best resource for gamers.
Despite the usual BS from gamers about not monkeying with the rules, our groups warped, played with, & turned 
Moldvay's Basic D&D  like a balloon animal to suit the player's & the campaign's needs. That's the strength of Basic Dungeons & Dragons the fact that it can be customized & used as needed.

We used Basic like a harp from Hell to stimulate everything from light weight science fantasy to Westerns when Boot Hill came to call with the guide lines from the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master's Guide providing all of the incentive needed. I learned Western & Eastern mythology because of these books & these lessons served me well in my forty years in this hobby. To this day while I do love some of the usual OSR trends in the hobby its the solid basis in Arthurian literature that still gets the creative juices flowing.

Basic Dungeons & Dragons provided the grounding for ruin & dungeon crawling. The fact that B2 Keep on The Borderlands was/is a very customizable adventure somehow seems lost on the jaded gamers of today. Yet I've run this same module numerous times & modified it to work not only in Dungeons & Dragons but Boot Hill or Gamma World as well. Yet those same 'jaded gamers' never recognize the module for what it is?! Trends may come & go in the OSR but classics are classic for a reason.

I found this out back in the 90's when I picked up modules for a song because White Wolf games were in vogue & players were leaving classic D&D in droves. But there was the first signs of the classic TSR era product still drawing in the hard cases. Third edition started rearing its head at the early part of the 00's & things were still classic. I could get an easy draw with original Dungeons & Dragons or Basic D&D.I'm still using the same tricks to get players to the table. There's the nostalgia factor sure but the classic still draw in the players.

Ten Reasons Why Basic Dungeons & Dragons Still Works At The Table 

  1. The game still draws in players because of the free wheeling nature of the interlocking game play & adventures. 
  2. Player cooperation is built into the game & it bleeds through the situations & adventures that player's PC's find themselves in. 
  3. Basic has many advantages of being a closed product & B/X is all that's needed to run a complete game. 
  4. The quality of the game is still solid even after all of this time. 
  5. The replay quality of the Basic game means that Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first edition adventures can easily be run with B/X. 
  6. The style of the game sets it apart from the trendy games of today. 
  7. Dungeons & Dragons Basic & original Dungeons & Dragons are hardcore with PC death around every corner. 
  8. There is a ton of good quality support material for free on the internet for B/X Dungeons & Dragons. 
  9. Dungeons & Dragons can do anything from science fantasy, Sword & Sorcery, to high fantasy easily. 
  10. Old school still rocks so fight on!

Monday, July 30, 2018

OSR Commentary On The Classic TSR Era Expert Dungeons & Dragons Book By David Cook

Tegel Manor event went down well on Saturday with all of the players happy & their role playing advancing the adventure's thread. They wove around the adventure & interacted with a good number of NPC's from Tegel village. But I was thinking about the Expert Dungeons & Dragons rule book later that night.

So what's so important about the Expert rules? Well for the dungeon master this is the rule book that really takes the adventuring out from dungeon, ruins, & wrecked building adventure setting. It placed play right square in the wilderness & wastes of a campaign. The Expert book is where the dungeon hex crawl was born & expanded the game's horizons from there. The blue book is also where the hard introduction to the world of Mystara took place. We got a brief one page introduction to  the Grand Duchy of Karameikos  &  the infamous single-page hex map.


An excellent example of the types of wilderness based adventure is the classic B8 Journey to the Rock by Michael Malone. The fact is that is classic module reads like another tournament adventure with the PC's racing against time & the hazards of the Rock.

The Expert set is ideal for running the craziness of B8 & get the players to come back for more. There's something almost delicate in the balance of the gonzo vs the old school aesthetic . I do think that the expert set introducing newer conceptions such as new  magic item, monsters, and spells were enough to hold my interest as a DM. But the real break through was X1 Isle of Dread which highlighted the use of factions within a wilderness setting.

The placement of X1 Isle of Dread within Mystara has always been problematic at best. But a resource that I stumbled upon Isle of Dread Timeline  by Håvard can help with the placement of this classic isle.
Within the campaign set up of the wilderness hex crawl Isle of Dread pretty much covers all of the classic bases with the factions of the isle, the dinosaurs, & even a set of  Cthulhu like horrors waiting to be discovered by the unwary. But the thing about both of the modules listed in this blog entry is that their endlessly able to reap the benefits of  customization by the dungeon master.

Ten Reasons why The

Expert Books are Still Relevant
  1. Expert really expands every PC class with new magic item, monsters, and spells to keep the players interested & expand the range for adventuring as well as old school play 
  2. The best artwork & the books continue the vision laid down in the Basic rule book
  3. More options on the table gives the players more opportunities for  role playing. 
  4. Hex crawls can cover a wide variety of options for adventuring at the table. 
  5. Expert is the unsung hero of the B/X dungeons & dragons with a bunch of official adventures to make adventure play sessions a snap. 
  6. Brand recognition  is flowing out of the Expert rule book with its iconic cover artwork by Erol Otis 
  7. Wilderness crawls have the advantage of really being able to expand the levels of the PC's quickly but not without the risks of PC death
  8. The expert set has any number of options to get the PC's front & center right where the action is 
  9. With some adjustments the B/X books can be the perfect long lasting  campaign. 
  10. The Expert book is the perfect expansion for the B/X hard core dungeon & campaign play. Don't let the classic game fool you there is the heart & souls of this game & its players

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Bloody Invaders & Unexpected Guests - Tegel Manor Actual Play Session I

"Traveling through the Other World the lost valley sea coast the  of accursed manor makes it way to unknown destinations. Our heroes have made their own way into Tegel village settled into a local flop house. The sky around the valley burns with demon stars as the PC's plot their next move! Death will take the first man or woman who hesitates! The demon haunted manor beckons them back to its halls of mist haunted horror! "
During the last game the PC's had made their way to Tegel village just before the whole valley & sea coast line shifted out of phase with the rest of the world. The players had raided a small island tomb & barely managed to make it out alive with some minor noble's armor.What they don't know right at the moment is that group of Viking raiders is hot on their heels having just crossed in to the coast from the plane of Water on an enchanted boat!
These guys are bounty hunters sent by prince Wegel III an old enemy of the party whose father was 'accidentally' killed by the party's bard when they were uncovering the tomb.

Meanwhile I stumbled upon another reference article on Tegel Manor itself over at the Fomalhaut blog. Some very interesting background & review material on the classic adventure. Anyhow I'm celebrating Gary Gygax day by getting my player's PC's into the thick of this classic. There are several factions in the village already with events in motion for them to stumble into!

I've spiced up the village with lots of interesting things for the player's PC's to buy & die from erm, get themselves into more adventure! Then there's the little matter of Emile Rump the ghost whose developed an attachment to one of the PC's. She's eternally waiting for her vic erm one true love! Even now she waits..

Ah, woe is me, for Love hath lain asleep,
Hath lain too long in some Circean close—
Till on his dreaming wings the ruined rose
Fell lightly, and the rose-red leaves were deep.

Ah, wellaway, for love is overlate:
Far-wandering, alone, we know not where,
He found the white and purple poppies fair,
Nor heard the summer pass importunate.

Sweet Love, can we forgive thy loitering ?
The golden summer, like a dream at dawn,
Changes, and from our kindled eyes is gone,

And leaves grey autumn. . . . We have heard thy wing
But with a sound of sighing; heart on heart,
In our own sighs we hear thy wing depart.
Belated Love  (1918)
by Clark Ashton Smith

Meanwhile the strange unworldly mists of the Otherworld weave their way across time & space, the PC's don't realize that a strangely familiar castle in the French countryside awaits them if they venture too fare from Tegel Manor's valley & coast line.

But that my friends is another blog entry for another day. Happy Gary Gygax day!

Friday, July 27, 2018

Happy Gary Gygax Day & The High Road To The Astral Plane With The Free Adventure ZA6: Journey to the Astral Plane by Joseph Mohr

Today would have been Gary Gygax's eightieth birthday today & we're supposed to celebrate his life. Gary Gygax was a lot of things designer, writer, & to a certain extent he was a Renaissance man. There was a lot of water under the bridge with the history of Dungeons & Dragons. For some folks those events yesterday even if it was forty plus years ago. But someplace along the line I stopped caring about all of the drama. Yes this includes the OSR's branch of garage band marketing.

I began to admire the sheer force of will & 'American know how' that went into the creation of the game I love. Being in a home based business for thirty plus years I know all of the trials & tribulations this can cause families. But the kind of success that original Dungeons & Dragons caused well that's another level all together. So I admire the man whose hard work & know how co created a phenomenon is one thing. But getting to know something of the man behind the game I came to like that guy as well. I've gotten to know that gentleman through the people who loved him, were his friends,co workers,etc. 
GenCon is happening right now but I've never had any desire to go again to that event. Instead every year I lament the fact that I've missed another GaryCon. But with an elderly parent whose condition is stable but a part of life adjustments have to be made. Many of you dear readers  are going through the exact same thing or worse.I'm so very sorry for those who are dealing with these situations. These are but after all merely amusements & games. That's all they ever really have been,really.  But the men who created these games in the form of Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson have been huge influences on my life. Not only the games themselves but the men behind them. Gary Gygax was a family man & a risk taker that's the best I can strive for in this life. Family has to come first.

 Real life causes us to make compromises & adjustments as it always has. So this weekend instead of booking a plane for GenCon I'm getting together with friends to celebrate the life of Gary Gygax. Toss back some beer, throw some dice, & fight on!
Meanwhile this weekend I'm introducing another classic planar element into the campaign mix. I'm going through the Monster Manual & the Fiend Folio picking out some classic Astral planar monsters. The other wonderful little wrinkle for this is using bits & pieces of the mythology of Gods,Demi Gods, & Heroes for this little bit of tomfoolery

Now why is all of this going on?! Because I'm planning on introducing adventure elements of the free Dragon Foot. org  adventure ZA6: Journey to the Astral Plane by Joseph Mohr to my home campaign the plot goes like this;

" The crown of the queen of Zanzia has been stolen! The culprit has escaped into the astral plane. Heroes are needed to chase down this villain and recover this priceless artifact. Only brave and powerful adventurers of at least 10th to 15th level could possibly successful in this adventure."
This isn't lower tier PC stuff at all. This is right up there in levels but its high time that the Astral Plane play a part in the otherworldly background of my home game. Its like this I've never needed Spell Jammer because I've had the Astral.

A Journey To The Astral Plane has all of the basics carved out within the module for planar travel. The encounters are interesting but many of the adventure elements could have far reaching consequences for a campaign if a DM isn't careful. This is a high level adventure but that means that the DM has to trickle down the events, adventure elements, etc. carefully in their own home games. But there's some good material here to use & adapt.

Wish me luck as things are about to get messy & weird for my players as the otherworldly Astral makes its way into the game! Happy Gary Gygax day!

Thursday, July 26, 2018

B/X Dungeons & Dragons Along With The Winding Adventure & Campaign Set Up

Two events mark their passage in the next day or so. One of of course is Gary Gygax's birthday who would have been eighty years old on Friday. Its a bit hard to process this in 2018 because Mr.Gygax's death seems to be fresh in my mind. The other thing that's on my mind is B/X Dungeons & Dragons once again. The Dungeons & Dragons Basic Rules (1981), by Tom Moldvay,yet it seems like its still the 'new' set. For me the magenta box sets are the standard for Dungeons & Dragons to a certain extent. For me Moldvay/Cook is just a continuation of original Dungeons & Dragons warts & all.

The Drivethrurpg entry on  the D&D Basic Set Rulebook (B/X ed.) (Basic) by
by Shannon Appelcline, the author of Designers & Dragons breaks down the differences between Holmes & Moldvay cleanly;

"Whereas Holmes' Basic D&D was mostly a matter of organization and explanation, Moldvay's Basic D&D also engaged in simplification. Thus, for example, there were no longer separate character classes and races. The twelve race-and-class combinations of Holmes' Basic D&D (including things such as the elven fighter/magic-user multiclass) became just seven classes in the new Basic D&D: clerics, dwarves, elves, fighters (which had still been "fighting men" under Holmes), halflings, magic-users, and thieves.
Moldvay's second edition also cleaned up character alignment, constrained spell choice, and even improved the layout of the book. All around, every effort was made to upgrade the game for starting players. As for the results, even former editor Holmes said, "I think the new Basic Set rules are an improvement over the first edition. Not a big quantum jump ahead, but better in a number of minor ways."
Moldvay's Basic D&D was enough of a change from the previous edition of the game that it was actually a "new edition" as it's understood in the modern roleplaying market, which was a pretty rare occurrence in the 70s or early 80s.
The Basic Set was (as planned) released simultaneously with the new Expert Set by David "Zeb" Cook, which expanded Basic D&D to levels 4-14. Gary Gygax mentioned a "Masters Set" around the same time, which was to cover levels 15-36, but that wouldn't appear during Basic D&D's second edition."

The  Expert Set edited by Dave Cook  is still one of the best continuations of the B/X game out there. Folks are still playing Expert & continuing on with the legacy started by Gary Gygax. To a certain extent I'm waxing nostalgic for B/X. The game seemed more open for customization  totally different then conforming ways of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first edition. B/X was the choice for many of us who want to run a pick up game.

Just last night I was talking with a friend of mine about a game he ran with a group of new players who were friends of his son from school. Taking the free module from Dragon's foot.org HM1 - The Disappearance of Harold the Hedge Mage by Todd Hughs. He had the group set up with PC's, the map laid out, & the players set up in less then a half an hour.

There are several areas that could be used in Harold to hook up with B2 Keep on The Borderlands by Gary Gygax. This also means that HM1 could be used as a buffer adventure on the way to the climax of  T1-4 Temple of Elemental Evil by Gary Gygax & Frank Mentzer.
The mines of HM1 might link up with B2 Keep on the Borderland's Caves of Chaos or some of the other underground works of the moat house of The Village of Hommlet. There would be a series of tunnels that could be used to stretch event into  ZA1: The Temple Of Chaos By Joseph Mohr

The goal of course is for the players to have fun but this sort of an adventure path is going to result in more then a few of the PC's dying by the hands of the humanoids & monsters scattered throughout. I'd make sure I'd have a few extra PC sheets on hand. The set up here is the expanding growth of the cults of Chaos & intertwined elemental evil religion gaining far more then a toe hold in the region of your campaign or Greyhawk. Power is on the rise & the altars of evil will be slick with the blood of sacrifices but only the PC's can stop the blood bath in time.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

1d6 Random Low Level Dire Plots From Around The Colosseum Table For Your Old School Sword & Sorcery Games

The blood spatters the ground & the crowd goes wild, from across the empire have been brought slaves & not all men. Through the thick roar of the crowd a lone woman leaves the thick of blood combat & makes her way along the thick marble stairs. She looks beyond distraught as she's watched another of her husband's friends die at the bloody end  sword of a sharp sword. But she has a plan & in the shadow of her pagan god's statue she meets her contact. The sharp end of her thieves guild's plot unfolds like the uncoiling of a sea creature's sting into the heart of the empire. Alien moons wheel overhead the only witness to this clandestine meeting.

From around the colosseum of a thousand worlds men, beasts, & more deal in the art of the death by combat for the entertainment of the masses. But there are far more to the goings on around these venues of entertainment & death. Thieves guilds, slaver's rings, & a vast network of businesses depend upon the bread & circuses for their very existence.
Anytime that PCs around such a place there is a 30% chance of them getting into the thick of some dangerous or dire plot related to the 'games'. The local thieves guilds often have close ties to the assassins guilds because of the high stakes gambling going on around the colosseum.
PC's may win d100 gold pieces or have a price put on their heads which they make work out within the dire circles & stages of the colosseum itself.

There is a strangeness in my soul
   A dark and brooding sea.
Nor all the waves on Capri's shoal
   Might stay the thirst of me.
For men have come and men have gone
   For pleasure or for hire.
Though they lay broken at the dawn
   They did not quench my fire.
My pity is a deathly ruth
   I burn men with my eyes.
Oh, would all men were one strong youth
   To break between my thighs.
Any many a man his fortune spread
   To glut my ecstacy
As I lay panting on his bed
   In shameless nudity.
But all of ancient Egypt's gold
   Can never equal this,
Nor all the treasures kingdoms hold,
   A single hour of bliss.
Within my villa's high domain
   Are boys from Britain's rocks
And dark eyed slender lads from Spain
   And Greeks with perfumed locks.
And youths of soft and subtle speech
   From furtherest Orient,
Wherever arms of legions reach
   And Roman chains are sent.
Why may I not be satiate
   With kisses of some boy—
They only rouse my passions spate
   I never know such joy
As when through chambers filled with noise
   Of wails and pleas and sighs
I stride among my naked boys
   With whips that bruise their thighs.
I drift through mists red flaming flung
   On hills of ecstacies
As shoulder-wealed and buttock-stung
   They shriek and kiss my knees.
A Roman Lady
by Robert Ervin Howard

'Agents' are always on the look out for solid raw talent  for the 'games' and can pay 10 to 60 gold pieces on the lower end of the gladiatorial spectrum. Those fighters of 1st to 2nd level can pick up the occasional game but getting 'noticed' might put them in the cross hairs of an agent's slavers or worse. Hiring an agent for 5 coppers an hour will provide the fighter with some protect from these vultures that loom around the games.
There is also the fact that particularly attractive pick up pit fighters could potentially pick up another five to six pieces of gold by finding their way into a jaded noble's bed room.
These same places often are the nests from which dire plots & weird schemes for adventurers can often find themselves growing.
1d6 Random Low Level Dire Plots From Around The Colosseum Table
  1. Agents are looking to smuggle into the city a rare combat enhancing herb. What they don't know is that the stuff is called the bane of Orcus. It will create 1d10 super tough zombies(double hit dice)  made for going on a rampage. The job will pay about 50 gold pieces per person to smuggle the stuff in & the guild will disavow the PC's should they get caught. Should the gladiatorial council get word of it there will be a very large price on the PC's heads.
  2. A senator's husband or  wife is actually an agent for a low thieves guild involved in the smuggling in the games high quality weapons for favored fighters. There is a particular sword they want to smuggle into the games for 20 gold pieces. The sword will go to a politically charged gladiator's match but the opposition is aligned to put a price on the heads of anyone helping in this endeavor.
  3. Hectos The Raw is a low level scum & bookie for the locals who wants to recruit some adventurers to help him steal a piece of jewelry from an up & coming senator's wife. He will pay 30 gold pieces to plant it in the quarters of a  star gladiator. The piece however is worth 200 gold pieces & Hectos is connected with the assassins guild. 
  4. The PC's are approached by an ancient looking yet stout fighter who wants to recruit them for a little work breaking into the Colosseum to place a disk of moon silver & brass at a certain location. He's looking for revenge against a gladiator who killed his brother. What the PC's don't know is that this fighter is a werewolf & is going go on a rampage against a certain senator.He's willing to pay 30 gold pieces for the job and its quick in & quick out. Well except for the fact that the assassin's guild knows about it. But there is 30% chance they may stand down.
  5. The priests of the god of gladiators & combat are looking for recruits for a feast game. This will of course only be till first blood. But they have a special feast planned for the PCs should they win but a certain senator doesn't want the priests to gain political favor. So he's hired 1d6 first level fighters to take out anyone taking on the job. The priests are offering 20 gold pieces for the match and a treasure map. 
  6. Effectus The Black Shroud the necomancer is offering 30 gold pieces to anyone who will face down his undead creations. He's know for his spectacular necrotic affairs & may want to hire the PC's on as his stable of fighters. A rival of his has other plans for the PC's! 

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

1d8 Random Low Level Sword & Sorcery Treasures Table For Your Old School Campaigns

Treasures are uncovered after being lost to time in word, thought, & crime. These baubles cross the path of destiny into the hands of adventurers. These treasures & relics of the wasteland carry their own special brand of weirdness & strangeness for those whose path they cross. Not all the circumstances that they bring are good nor kind.

I carved a woman out of marble when
The walls of Athens echoed to my fame,
And in the myrtle crown was shrined my name.
I wrought with skill beyond all mortal ken.
And into cold inhuman beauty then
I breathed a touch of white and living flame --
And from her pedestal she rose and came
To snare the souls and rend the hearts of men.

Without a soul, without a human heart
She shattered mortal love and mortal pride
And even I fell victim to my art,
With bitter joyless love I took my bride.
And still with frozen hate that never dies
She sits and stares at me with icy eyes.
Flaming Marble  (1929)
by Robert Ervin Howard

Found in ruins & dungeons these treasures from  another age are often valued by those monsters & creatures. Even inhuman minds  recognize the value that humans place upon these things. Relics carry their own sickness & condition those who seek tombs & ruins can often come down with the psychological condition know as relic sickness. Unless a save vs disease is made should the adventurer gain more then 700 gold pieces worth of material they may catch  relic sickness. They will become obsessed by the treasures of ancient days & will become irritable,very agitated when not on the hunt for more treasure. This can lead to an increasing paranoia & perhaps even murderous intentions to fellow adventurers. Should they not be exploring a ruin or wasteland location they may become murderous & exhibit behavior that mirrors someone who has been drinking to excess. Should the adventurer find more then two thousand gold pieces they may break off from the party convinced that 'someone is trying to steal their treasure. Only a 'remove curse' spell will banish this semi magical 'disease of the mind' away from the PC. Should the disease progress for more then seventy two hours the PC may become obsessed to the point where their own natural occult spiritual resistance is drained. They are then an easy target for a low level demon or hunger spirit of the worst type. In the end the PC may be converted into a low grade wight. An undead of the lowest common denominator still obsessed with treasure & valuables.

1d8 Random Low Level Sword & Sorcery Treasures Table

  1. A series of small two inch blue jade protection gods worth 30 gold pieces each and enable the owner to communicate with dead . These pieces worth can vary depending on owner.
  2. A +0 short sword that once supposedly belonged to an angel of Hecate. The blade hilt  is strangely encrusted with moon stones & the whole sword is  worth 100 gold pieces but there is scroll of protection hidden in a secret catch in the hilt. 
  3. An amulet of strange oily gems with a frame work of copper. The amulet when held up to a distant candle flame is able to see the aura of anyone who stands within a 6 foot radius of the user. They are able to see any invasive spiritual entities such as demons or astral parasites. Worth only fifty gold pieces because of the amulet's mixed reputation among certain occult collectors.
  4. A wand of glass & brass that enables the owner to create magical barrier five foot square around the owner. The barrier will not allow any unnatural creatures to pass into it. The whole effect acts like a protection from evil spell and is worth 80 gold pieces because the activation word has been lost. Only a quest taking twelve days will allow the word for activation to be discovered. 
  5. A five foot circle ring of white gold that allows the owner to protect any object secreted within from the elements & time. Anyone putting an appendage into this circle when the effect is operation takes 1d10 years worth of aging damage as the 'supertime' effect damages tissue. The ring is always active & so only worth 100 gold pieces. 
  6. A small casket of marble carved into the likeness of seven death goddesses. This device enables the preservation of flesh for eternity when one places something within its confines. The small two foot long by one foot wide box of stone has a reputation among collectors and so is worth only 74 gold pieces. There have been literally thousands found across the planes. 
  7. A ram's head made out of gold that holds the secrets for creating ancient gateways & keys to the realm of demons. The ram's head symbolizes Orcus the demon lord of undead who created this minor bauble only worth  40 gold pieces unless your a necromancer.
  8. A dagger of pure alibastor  that enables a wizard to stab someone's shadow & the dagger will act like a 'hold person' spell unless they save vs spells. Then the dagger can cut away pieces of the target's soul. Madness will follow in 1d8 hours.

Monday, July 23, 2018

1d6 Random Low Level Occult Adventure Locations Table For Your Old School Campaigns

"There are places where adventure has settled in like the cloak of a crow's wings on a Winter's day. Corruption & degeneration have come home to roust with the greed & misfortune of any who cross these places path in the offering.  These places  have become lairs of evil where misdeeds have lain treasure on the very doorstep of places where once the sun shined. Can your adventurers help to clear the evil from these adventure locations?! "

"Slowly he rose, mechanically wiping his hands upon his cloak. A dark scowl had settled on his somber brow. Yet he made no wild, reckless vow, swore no oath by saints or devils.
"Men shall die for this," he said coldly."

Robert E. Howard
"Red Shadows" (1928)

Every old school dungeons & dragons & OSR game adventure needs its side quests & smaller level adventures. I've come up with six adventure locations based around an upcoming campaign arch I'm currently working on. So here in are six random low level occult adventure locations to throw at your players.

1d6 Random Low Level Occult
Adventure  Locations Table 

  1. A former shrine of Hecate now inhabited by 1d10 free willed & intelligent skeletons who are robbing & murdering travelers on the local roads. They have amassed a 60 gold piece haul & 200 gold pieces worth of trade goods from local merchants. The undead are willing to trade wine, chocolate, & other delicacies for a map of a local dungeon they have found. The local priestess of Hecate would like to get the skeletons back under her local cult's control or too destroy them. She offers a 20 gold piece reward. 
  2. There is a flock of 1d6 harpies that has taken up residence in a former lair of a green dragon. They have been attracted by the scent of death left in the wake of the dragon & her former victims. The harpies have been feeding on adventurers who haven't heard the dragon is long dead. These monsters have three magic items & a small portion of the former dragon's treasure. There are 300 silver pieces worth of jewelry in a collapsed part of the shallow cavern lair. There is also a spell book of a wizard devotee of the god Zeus. The spells are special because of a page from the god's scroll of power & the flock feels its power coursing through the place. 
  3. 1d6 mummies have been unearth due to a recent Earth quake & now their antechamber has been exposed after centuries of sleep. They roam about the countryside at night seeking a discipline   of Horus to put them back into eternal rest. They are willing to parley & speak to a priest or wizard about their situation. If attacked they will spread mummy rot as an air borne plague across the local region with a twenty mile radius. There are extensive treasures that they are willing to trade for. 
  4. A single sink hole in the ground has uncovered a powerful dungeon location & now its influence is spreading. 1d8 giant flies  & weird terrors are spreading out from the dungeon bring with them sleeping sickness & alien fungal horror. There are 1d6 pieces of golden treasure laying about but anyone touching them will contract russet mold or green slime. Limbs will wither & other horror will spread as treasures seekers come for the relics of the place. 
  5. An Elven tomb location has been found & several lost treasures have been found. The local Elven warriors are on a blood feud & are summoning several major monsters from beyond. These include several Earth Elemental beings. If the treasures are returned to the tomb then Elves will call off any attacks. 
  6. An ancient ley line nexus has been breached & now a gang of 1d8 gargoyles is on the rampage! They are after an ancient silver cross that can banish their demonic necrotic master. This undead thing wishes to come back & reestablish his cult but for the moment only his gargoyle henchmen are on the prowl. The murder anyone they come across in the hopes of summoning his spirit from beyond the grave but this hasn't worked yet. Local villagers want to hire adventurers to rid them of the things.

Gamma Greyhawk - GW1 The Legion of Gold Adventure Plus The World of Greyhawk Fantasy Setting

"There is much to worry about in the mutated world of the future, but Baron Jemmas, Warder of Horn, has more on his mind than most. In recent weeks several of the outlying towns of his Barony have been wiped out by a band of mysterious golden marauders.

These creatures struck from nowhere and vanished without a trace when their deeds were done. The Warder has decided that they must be stopped before the entire Barony of Horn falls beneath their onslaught, and so he is offering a great reward to anyone who can defeat the Legion of Gold."

Turn your way back machines to the year 1993 a year after a run away planet hurled between the Earth & the moon! Mankind's creations were cast into ruins! Alright not really but one of my AD&D campaigns was. Vampire The Masquerade had taken a huge bit out of my local gaming groups. At the time I was running a mixed AD&D first edition & Gamma World game. Gamma World campaigns at the time & to some extent is a mix of many of the editions. While purists will argue me to the ground this is how a lot of Gamma World DM's often do things.  Gamma World Fourth edition's Treasures of the Ancients had hit the stands & in my little corner of Connecticut it made quite the stir. Among the Gamma World crowd it had all of the modular add ons & what not for the personal power armor. All of this glued into the Gamma Knight's game supplement. But now another friend's Greyhawk AD&D first edition game broke down into fighting over the usual 'big game power struggles'. You run with too big of a group of players & this happens.

So suddenly I got tapped to run a group of players into a Greyhawk style AD&D game with six players whist I was getting to run my own Gamma World mixed edition game?! What the hell was I supposed to do? Two things happened that saved my behind back then. One was an interview that I read on a Wednesday about Gary Gygax in which he talked about his home game setting  of Greyhawk.
During said interview with Gary Gygax he talked about the process of creating the world of Greyhawk & the Greyhawk wiki entry has essentially the same information ;"Gygax continued to design and present the dungeons and environs of Castle Greyhawk to his circle of friends and family, using them as playtesters for new rules and concepts. As the players began to explore more of the world outside of the castle and city, Gygax developed other regions and cities for them. With play sessions occurring seven or more times a week,[27] Gygax didn't have the time or inclination to create the map for a whole new world; he simply drew his world over a map of North America, adding new cities and regions as his world slowly grew through ongoing adventures.[28] The city and castle of Greyhawk were placed near the real-world position of Chicago, his birthplace; various other places were clustered around it. For instance, the rival city of Dyvers he placed in the area of real-world Milwaukee"

GW1  Legion of Gold adventure  takes place in essentially the same areas as Greyhawk & with a bit of creative hand waving it became the campaign setting for this Gamma World game campaign. Legion of Gold can be played as one straight solid adventure or it can be come as series of linked adventures! . Gary Gygax & Luke Gygax & Paul Reiche III Legion of Gold has several advantages for campaign play it shows the DM how to create & interlink a campaign setting together using the point crawl or encounter crawl method.

The mix of fantasy & science fantasy elements in the Gamma Greyhawk campaign was the most successful game campaign I've had to date. She ran on & off for five years of near constant play on weekends across the backrooms of hobby shops & book stores across Connecticut. To help flesh out the city states of certain areas & backwaters I used David Hargrave's Arduin Grimoire series of books. There were several RIFTS players who came regularly & we got complaints from one of the local game/comic shops because they couldn't maintain their in house game.

We had player's PC's crossing over into our regular AD&D Greyhawk campaign setting & vice versa. But many player characters were shredded in this game campaign. Death was a regular occurrence but no one minded & we had a great time with it. These days if I was to do something with this campaign I'd probably use Mutant Future & a few other OSR resources but this past weekend I got together with some of my old players and we talked over old times so perhaps?!

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Lost In The Eighties! OSR Carcosa & OSR Actual Play Workshop Session II Giant Monster Boogaloo

So with the latest Godzilla: King of The Monsters trailer drop the other day from Comic Con I've had to content with players talking non stop about Kaiju or 'titans' last night. Sure what a problem?! But is it really one?Well no not really at all. I've  got my  Lost In The Eighties! OSR  Carcosa game already in play.

The fact is that I can use a combination of Mutant Future /Gamma World forth edition to enhance as well as  weaponize my version of Carcosa. Bill of Green Skeleton Gaming Guild did a post on the Gamma Knights supplement today. Bill is a bit late to the party I'm afraid. The Mutant Future wiki has had this whole bit with personal power armor covered since '09.

In fact the Mutant Future Wiki has a whole cloth  rundown of differences between Gamma World & Mutant Future's mutations as well as editions.

Since the early Thirties during the 'Prenatural Wars' Earth has been coping with giant killer monsters used as WMD's. The Allied Encased military units have been coping with these menaces from beyond forever. Some doors however shouldn't be opened & now things are going to be coming through those gates from beyond. All of the heavy lifting has been done for me to simulate the various mutant & Kaiju menaces for me by the D-Infinity crew.


 And while everyone on G+ goes about their various in fighting over the usual OSR subjects I've been figuring out how to simulate the giant scale of these monsters without breaking the bank. The way is to go smaller actually. I'm going to be using the 15 MM scale minis & there are a ton of them from Khurasan Miniatures.

Now that the
United States Department of Energy, has activated its operation  'Project Doorway' occult mission back to Carcosa in its Montauk, New York and nearby Long Island locations will 'encased military assets be moved into certain key areas of New England?

There are in fact three very dangerous giant monsters in Mutant Future & Gamma World forth edition to really get things moving. The komodo is a giant mutant lizard with a boat load of mutations that can cause even experienced Gamma adventurers nightmares.

Not to mention the radiation dragons from Mutant Future, radioactive intelligent dragons with all of their own agendas. Then there's the usual Fifties nightmare fuel giant monsters that can have mutations added for extra effectiveness & death.

During las night's game the PC's came face to face with the Castle gang a group of ape criminals & thieves who were pillaging a museum of art work. The adventurers learned first hand why its never a good idea to play around with monkeys with increased intelligence & energy projecting powers! The monkeys got away making the PC's looking like a bunch of monkey's uncles!

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Tegel Manor Bound - Meeting & Actual Play Event Plus More Tegel Free Resources

"The PC's are on their way as the dead stars of a million planes wheel overhead. The land around them is unreal & seems to change with each foot fall as they approach the village. The pit of their stomachs aches with stepping foot back into that Fey village again. Will the inhabitants remember them?!
Is there now a murderer among them & are there other factions among the populace of the village outside Tegel Manor?? "

I've talked about the PC's ties to the temple of Thor last blog entry but tonight their going to make their way back to their old haunts in the village proper. For the village another night wheeling under alien skies & stars but life goes on unabated.
I've been doing more research on Dragon's foot.org & came across this project on the forums that seems to have gone no where. But there are some very interesting tid bits here. I'm keeping the later Roman era empire feel of both the village & the manor itself though. Some really quick notes & I might be ready to go for tonight's game. 

The trick here is balancing the Sword & Sorcery themes of AS&SH with the Gothic monsters & what not of Tegel Manor. But here's the thing that's not actually my job, its up to the players how those are all going to work out at the table. My descriptions will fill in the details but they'll be pulling all of it together. There's another great thread on Dragon's foot.org that goes into the differences between the Game Science version of Tegel Manor & the Judge's Guild this helps to clarify things a bit.

However I will be sticking with the Seventies version of Tegel because its easier to customize & run for me as a dungeon master. This means that I can help to adapt the adventure on the fly as necessary. One of the other pieces of interesting research I came across was on the Hyboria.Xoth.net site, The Hyborian Age Setting for AD&D 1st Edition: Notes about using first edition AD&D for sword and sorcery adventures. By Antonio Eleuteri. Not only is this right up my alley but could be used for running this module through the Hyborian Age of Conan as well. Is it a possible destination for the manor?! Possibly but occasional my players read this blog so who knows!?

One of the things that I can tell you that has been very inspirational is one of the pieces of artwork that was recently put up on one of the updates for the Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea second edition adventure kickstarter for Beasts & Cannibals
Kraggoth Manor adventure.
I spied this piece of artwork very early in the kickstarter announcements & it was inspirational for me torturing my pl erm choosing to run Tegel Manor from Judge's Guild. I loved the idea of beautiful manor house out in the middle of the wasteland. And while this is wonderful idea I wanted something a bit different & a bit more classic D&D era.

I wanted a haunted manor from another time & space  instead of the ruins in this great piece of artwork for Kraggoth Manor. I'm sure this adventure is going to be up to the high standards of North Wind Adventures.
Tegel Manor by Judge's Guild has a whole cloth different aesthetic from the feel of AS&SH but it works so well with it on many levels.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Review & OSR Commentary On The Free AD&D Adventure - ZA5: Flayers of the Mind.

"The adventurers find themselves outside of a set of caves in the Dragon Teeth Mountains. They do not remember how they got here or why they came. But they feel drawn by the psychic energies from within the cave and feel compelled to explore them. This is an AD&D psionics adventure for 4-6 characters of from 7th to 10th level of experience. At least one or two characters from the party should have psionic abilities."
Psionic Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first edition adventures are not usually the thing I've heard about someone writing. Its always been psionics in my campaigns or games?! No way! So when I quietly stumbled upon a free high level psionics adventure on Dragon foot.org colour me intrigued.

So what's the actual set up & why is it such a higher level adventure? Well this has to do with the actual set up for the adventure which has the PC's caught between to large country empires;
"The adventurers (those with psionicabilities) find themselves suddenly and
mysteriously drawn towards a previously unknown and unmarked cave in the Drag Teeth Mountains. This cave is found deep in these dangerous and wild mountains far  beyond the reaches of civilization. The  mountains border several lands on this
continent and all of these sovereign entities claim ownership over them. Zanzia is the civilized nation to which they truly belong.
But the barbarian lands to the north of  Zanzia often have raiding parties within the
mountain range. The Empire of Jural to the  west of Zanzia also claims ownership and  often has army patrols in them to assert their claim. And of course the Zanzian army itself often patrols near the range.   It is an area filled with the most
dangerous sorts of creatures. Giants, dragons, rocs, griffins and other such beasts are often to be found there. It is not a place for the weak or the helpless to visit."

There is the potential for a lot of combat in such a higher level adventure but its really more of a cross between a bit of combat & lots of investigative role playing. Author Joseph A. Mohr does a good job of balancing his encounters & the pregenerated PC's go a long way towards helping to establish the mood. The psionics is front & center in this adventure & the party of adventurers is going to need all of the help they can get. There are some horrors that are waiting to feast on the PC's minds. The layout & cartography is decent with the focus of the adventure really laying within the lap of one of the psionic adventurer's party.

The party of adventurers that dial & focuses in on the adventure's goals are going to have a better time then a slap dash group of hack & slasher types. The combat and encounters in ZA5: Flayers of the Mind is deadly & could result in a TPK sort of situation. On the whole most of the material in ZA5: Flayers of the Mind is there to challenge & taunt the players as well as their PC's. The design & writing are compact & weird enough to hold my interests.
Players are going to have to out think & use their PC's creatively to get past some of the tricks & traps of ZA5: Flayers of the Mind! But can the PC's make it past some of the weirdness going on in this adventure.

The psionic aspect of
ZA5: Flayers of the Mind  puts a new wrinkle on the usual adventures & modules. The PC mind powers are middle of this adventure & put several spins on some of the encounters & over all goals of this OSR affair.
This piece of artwork isn't in the module ZA5: Flayers of the Mind  but it suits the over all feel  power structure of the adventure. Its well written & has several key encounters that make ZA5: Flayers of the Mind stand out from its pack of other adventures. The PC level is high but there are fates worse then death
Is it worth down loading and taking the time to read it before trying to run this mid to high level affair.

I'm trying to do a commentary & review without giving away key point details on ZA5: Flayers of the Mind. All in all it seems to me that while ZA5: Flayers of the Mind is a good part time distraction from the usual pack of D&D style adventures. Do I think that you should down load it? Absolutely!
The combination of high level play, pregenerated PC's, a bucket load of new NPC's,treasure  & yet another set of mind blowing monsters! The combinations of playing high stakes adventure with a mix of mind control & mind powered weirdness is overwhelmingly the sort of thing I could run on a Saturday or other work night!

ZA5: Flayers of the Mind HERE

Myth Beyond The Monster Manual - The Erinyes Devils of Violence & Justice For Your Old School Sword & Sorcery Campaigns

I've  been quietly cracking open my first edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual & looking into the devils section last night. I looked into the Erinyes entry  for a bit of Sword & Sorcery inspiration.The Monster Manual & even the original Dungeons & Dragons monster stats profile has been lacking. Greco Roman mythology is so much richer on these goddesses & children of Chronos's blood.

Its through Dante's Divine Comedy  that we get these female chthonic deities of vengeance 

that we get these deities & their devil kin offspring in Hell. The wiki entry on the Furies goes into their parentage & mythological background; 
"In Greek mythology the Erinyes (/ɪˈrɪniˌz/; sing. Erinys /ɪˈrɪnɪs/;[1] Greek: Ἐρῑνύες [ῠ], pl. of Ἐρῑνύς [ῡ], Erinys),[2] also known as the Furies, were female chthonic deities of vengeance; they were sometimes referred to as "infernal goddesses" (χθόνιαι θεαί). A formulaic oath in the Iliad invokes them as "the Erinyes, that under earth take vengeance on men, whosoever hath sworn a false oath".[3] Walter Burkert suggests they are "an embodiment of the act of self-cursing contained in the oath".[4] They correspond to the Dirae in Roman mythology.[5] The Roman writer Maurus Servius Honoratus wrote that they are called "Eumenides" in hell, "Furiae" on earth, and "Dirae" in heaven.[6][7]
According to Hesiod's Theogony, when the Titan Cronus castrated his father, Uranus, and threw his genitalia into the sea, the Erinyes (along with the Giants and the Meliae) emerged from the drops of blood which fell on the earth (Gaia), while Aphrodite was born from the crests of sea foam.[8] According to variant accounts,[9] they emerged from an even more primordial level—from Nyx ("Night"), or from a union between air and mother earth.[10] Their number is usually left indeterminate. Virgil, probably working from an Alexandrian source, recognized three: Alecto or Alekto ("endless"), Megaera ("jealous rage"), and Tisiphone or Tilphousia ("vengeful destruction"), all of whom appear in the Aeneid. Dante Alighieri followed Virgil in depicting the same three-character triptych of Erinyes; in Canto IX of the Inferno they confront the poets at the gates of the city of Dis. Whilst the Erinyes were usually described as three maiden goddesses, the Erinys Telphousia was usually a by-name for the wrathful goddess Demeter, who was worshipped under the title of Erinys in the Arkadian town of Thelpousa."

When I was younger back in the Eighties, the Satanic Panic was in full swing I used to have to sneak readings & such of Dante's Divine Comedy.During the school season. I developed a monster ecology centered around the Furies & their kin. Hell wasn't simply nine levels of planes but a large sprawling series of planes, subplanes, & nether Hells. These all connected together by the river Styx & its many backwaters. I was influenced by the Dragon Magazine articles the 'Politics of Hell' & the many articles on devils & demons through the years.

These goddesses & their spawn are lawful evil  conforming  to the violent letter of the law including the breaking of sacred oaths. But they are far older then the Greco Roman pantheon & have strong connections to the titan especially Uranus.
"The three classic Furies sprang forth from the spilled blood of Uranus when he was castrated by his son Cronus. The sisters are:

  • Alecto – Punisher of moral crimes (anger, etc.)
  • Megaera – Punisher of infidelity, oath breakers, and theft
  • Tisiphone – Punisher of murderers"

"The Roman writer Maurus Servius Honoratus wrote that they are called "Eumenides" in hell, "Furiae" on earth, and "Dirae" in heaven." So they have dominion in all of these planes under special circumstances.

But in a Sword & Sorcery game such as Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea set millions of years in the future under a dying Earth what possible role can the "Eumenides" & their spawn have?! Actually plenty considering that in my own campaigns Ragnarok & the Apocalypse has happened. In a post Ragnarok world they'd be responsible for the souls of dead royals, princes, bishops,etc. who broke their sacred oaths. Assassin's guilds sacred to them would be carrying out their divine agendas based on sacred dreams & visions.

The Amazons have whole cloth cults & state run religions centered around the Furies. During times of war the drums of the Amazon armies can be heard for miles around. A major summoning often accompanies these events especially before war or major battles.

Then there are the druidic groves dedicated to them scattered through the wilderness. Groves dedicated to Orestes  which are visited by bards who wish to gain the sacred madness of his mystery. Oedipus also has his own mysterious groves scattered throughout the weird wildernesses but scholars are unsure of if both Orestes & Oedipus are two different ancient princes. Or the same one who  attracted their 'tender affections'

"In Sophocles's play, Oedipus at Colonus, it is significant that he comes to his final resting place in the grove dedicated to the Erinyes. It shows that he has paid his penance for his blood crime, as well as come to integrate the balancing powers to his early over-reliance upon Apollo, the god of the individual, the sun, and reason. He is asked to make an offering to the Erinyes and complies, having made his peace"

 Pity the poor necrcomancer whose black heart summons these devils & wastes their time. His soul will be ravaged in some nameless back water Hell or in some corner temple of Underborea for eternity.

Make no mistake these devils while lawful are purely evil. Their visitations often leave behind the tell tale scent & trail of Chaos itself wherever they go.  The cults dedicated to whatever facet of the Furies often have the markings of mutation about them. There many be 1d6 mutations about these cultists.
These beings will not harm a worshiper or cult member of the cult of Cronus. That is unless they have broken the scared oaths & laws of the Furies or their spawn. Cults of witches & druidic circles dedicated to the Furies are always opposed to the toad god & its spawn's agenda. They will not hesitate to destroy any member of these groups that comes within their talons. Once per new moon one of the spawn of the Furies may be summoned from the underground back water of  the underworld or Hell.

The Grand Summoning happens once in the dead of Winter under the full Moon with one of the dread sisters appearing accompanied by 1d6 devil spawn from the deepest of Hells. A murderer or adulterer is often the sacrifice at such a summoning. Cults will seek divine guidance during these rites & major events. These events often happen at remotely located temples located on high mountains or in the wilderness ruins of some once major city state.

There are in the wastelands entire witch cults dedicated to the Furies who carry out ancient sacred rites under the watchful & wrathful eye of a devil. She will often inhabit or possess the head priestess & pass judgement on any brought before her. Sacrifices are made of oathbreakers & adulterers on the small moon nights while murderers & worse's blood graces the alters on full moon. These cults often ply the wastelands trading potions, healing powders, & wares while spying for more criminals to kidnap for the alters. There is never enough blood & some towns turn over or sell their criminals for the rough 'justice' of the cults.

This alternative ecology of the Furies & their spawn was made
my Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea rpg adventure  using the alternative  historical Dark Albion & Dark Albion Cults of Chaos setting rules. Bits & pieces were taken from Lion & Dragon.